There is an inner, often very private experience that occurs when a woman becomes a mother, one not often talked about. Just as her baby is born physically, a mother must be born emotionally; she must give birth to a new identity: the identity of being a mom. How this identity emerges and what the process feels like will be different for every woman. There is a lot written about the physical and practical aspects of motherhood but not as many resources exist for understanding the emotional experience of forming this new identity. Becoming a mother does not happen in one defining moment, rather it is the accumulation of events emerging gradually from the moment you discover you are pregnant to the many months following the birth of your baby.
It is easy to think of a mother as just a woman with a new, added responsibility; that she would develop new feelings and behaviors after having a baby, but would essentially remain the same person. However, I think it is a more complicated experience. When you have a baby it changes what you think about, what you fear or hope for, and what you fantasize about. Your basic sensory and information processing systems are heightened in addition to the influence had on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Having a baby redirects many of your interests and pleasures, and will often leave you examining your values. I don’t know that there is any way to prepare for the influence this new mindset will have on all of your previous relationships; you may find yourself reevaluating and redefining even your closest relationships.
As with any new experience, there is also the loss of what once was. Shortly after the birth of my son I remember saying to someone that I had lost my identity as a human being and it was now replaced with “just” being a mother. No matter how much you love your baby, or having become a mother, the loss of your previous life can be as painful as any other loss one might experience. It is important to remember that grieving is a process, that your grief will be a personal and unique experience, and that you need to grieve your loss, letting yourself feel the emotions as they come up. This can be especially difficult for a new mother because it may be hard to imagine that feelings of anger and resentment might be acceptable (and even completely normal) feelings to have towards your new role as mother.